The creation diary of a most extraordinary dwelling

In 2012 I moved into a drafty, rotty, ratty, very cold but also charming & romantic & affordable house in Featherston.  It was great.  For a while it was great.  Really great in a drafty, rotty, ratty, cold, charming, romantic, affordable way.  But truly how long can or should a dedicated singleton on a low income last in a crumbling 3 bedroom villa with overwhelming back yard?  Much care was increasingly required.  & when it comes to things like gardens & guttering, I am a withholding parent.  It was all getting out of hand.  The house felt like it was sort of sinking… in the kitchen, the rats had won. 

So in 2019 I moved out.  I threw a moving out party & everyone came.  Around 3am we found the paints & tagged the walls & it looked… well, it looked excellent.  I said to my friends, we should have done this years ago.  I said to my friends, my next home will be painted top to bottom in pink including the fridge & the fruit bowl.  We all cheered & laughed & kissed & went to bed with blue, pink, orange, gold, black & green spattered over our hands & our rosy cheeks.  & then I returned to Wellington, place of my birth, where I crashed with my mum. 

Time went by.  Things had changed since I’d last lived in town.  Things had got very expensive.  I huddled at my mums & wrung my hands.  In my late thirties, huddling at my mums & wringing my hands.  Those who attended the Featherston party sometimes asked after the Pink Future Home Vision – any updates or promising leads?  No.  Just no.  Still at my mums, still wringing my hands.  So, no.  Til in a fit of boozy(?) despair I dramatically typed into the TradeMe search bar “cheapest house in New Zealand” & an old West Coast church popped up.

“…an old West Coast church popped up.”

Here’s the thing.  I have no kids.  My work involves various art practices & roles.  It’s an indulgent life, to a degree.  But so what?  Making art is always a bit indulgent.  If we want art we must allow for artists to be a bit indulgent.  I have experimented with having a partner but it does seep into art making time & I just love the art more, not sorry.  What I’m saying is no kids & no partner makes moving suddenly into a West Coast church with no plumbing, no kitchen or loo, no insulation & not much roof honestly no big thing.  I just did it.  With the wisdom I’d gained from my Featherston jaunt – that small towns are wonderful & easy to thrive in & that decrepitude can make a good home for a certain person for little bit – I just did it, see ya Wellington, wouldn’t wanna be ya.  In October of 2021 I pulled up outside the former St Andrews Anglican church in Blaketown, Greymouth. 

The sun shone high & bright.  The sound of the sea filled the air.  I turned the key & opened the large arched doors.  I took out my knife & cut into the rotting carpet.  I tore off a large strip with a flourish & 80 years of sand & dust flew about & settled on my shoulders & in my beard.  I lived in Greymouth now. 

Almost a year later, St Andrews has fully transitioned into Gloria.  Correct, Gloria is super queer.  Gloria is top to bottom pink inside & out, including the kettle & the piano.  Fridge & fruitbowl, forthwith.  I’ve kept a daily log of her progress – just the facts, no poetry, no whimsy.  I kept the log until Gloria was vandalised in June & then I stopped.  The why of that is for me & a therapist to unravel.  But please enjoy this first fortnight of entries into Gloria of Greymouth’s daily log for a glimpse into the manifestation of a vision…

October 10, 2021

Arrived in Greymouth 5pm.  Sunny.  Checked into backpackers then drove to Gloria.  Smelling v damp.  I opened the doors wide.  Ripped up aisle carpet.  Found lovely floorboards in good shape.  Fish & chips & beer.  Didn’t finish beer.  Too tired & dirty.  Plus didn’t poo today.  Bed 9pm. Shirley Jackson. 

October 11

Woke 7am.  Bad sleep.  Dreamed nephew was psychedelic malevolent worm-newt.  Phoned Genesis about electricity.  DP1: coffee & eggs.  Mitre 10: broom, bin, ladder, borer bomb.  Ellery’s: bed.  No dehumidifiers in stock since Westport floods.  Countdown: water, bananas, peanut butter.  Plumber Wayne came by to plan the bathroom shed.  Said he used to come to services here every Sunday.  I continued pulling up carpet.  Wayne rang Gloria’s bell.  Forgot to get spoons so ate peanut butter with pencil.  Mary came by.  Said she came to services here every Sunday: tea in the southwest corner, kids in the northwest corner.  190kg of carpet taken to the tip.  2 forks, 1 spoon, 1 knife from op shop.  Backpacker owners Lynda & Harry came by & rang the bell.  Chopin.  Finished pulling up carpets.  Heavy rain.  Turned off music to listen.  Very sweaty.  Back to backpackers for shower.  Dinner in.  Beers out.

October 12

Woke 7am.  Coffee, toast.  Sunny & warm.  Bookshop: James Baldwin.  Noel Leeming: dehumidifier.  Nursery: 6 flaxes, 2 ti kouka, shovel, fork.  Van stuck in mud.  Wayne’s brother & assistant & neighbour came by, pushed van out.  Everyone rang Gloria’s bell.  Paul came by w his metal detector & found a penny, 1938, year before Gloria was built.  Geoff came by w his dog.  Paul took off his shirt & showed me his ‘fuck religion’ tattoo.  I put Gloria’s neon sign up above the pulpit.  Pulled out carpet nails from the floorboards.  Art supplies into northwest corner.  Bed into southwest corner.  Scraped off painted faux stained glass window.  Led Zeppelin.  Banana.  Liz came by with her dog.  Finished 6.45pm.  Pub.

October 13

Woke 7am.  Coffee, toast.  Sunny & warm.  Mitre 10: mop, cleaners, new bolt & hinge for front door, hose, paint stripper for faux stained glass window.  Harry came by w water blaster.  But still no electricity.  Countdown: bananas, salad, beer, milk.  Art Gallery: met Katrina & Abi & Kyle.  Southern Alps clear & magnificent.  Nursery: 5 flax, 2 ti kouka, 1 kowhai.  Pearl came by.  Chinese takeaways for dinner.

October 14

Woke 7am.  Coffee, toast.  Warm & sunny, wore a straw hat.  Electrician Adam checked Gloria’s wiring & played Gloria’s piano.  Sanded door, tested paints & put new hinge on.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Talked to young folks at Art Gallery about Gloria.  Met Mayor Tania there.  Made a platonic grindr profile.  Went for a beer w Allen, then to Rapahoe where I found some pounamu.  Pearl came by later.  Said my pounamu was serpentine.

Gloria, before
Gloria, after

October 15

Woke 7am.  Coffee, toast.  Warm & sunny.  Resene: paint for door.  Mitre 10: sandpaper, sugar soap.  Painted door dark pink, v happy.  Began painting pulpit walls.  Adam said Gloria’s wiring almost as good as a new build.  Electricity now on.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Pearl came by.  Paul came by.  Met Seth, fun & cute & a bad influence, luckily he moves to Hawkes Bay next week.  Pub.

October 16

Woke 9am.  Warm & sunny.  Coffee, toast.  Warehouse: toaster, kettle, sheets, pillow.  Noel Leeming: minifridge.  Mitre 10: ply.  Pearl came by with extension cords & gas cooker.  Geoff came by w an armchair.  Kissed Seth last night.  Good thing he is leaving.  Continued painting altar & back wall.  Went to an opening at the Art Gallery.  Learned there’s good clay to dig in Charleston.  Katrina & Hannah came by.  Talked about community arts, poetry & rubbish collection.  Lock broken on bathroom shed.  Pub.

October 17

Woke 9am.  Coffee, toast.  Heavy rain.  Arrived at Gloria & found water had come thru all the north facing windows.  Dehumidifier full.  Cacophony of starlings in the roof.  Met Jared for coffee.  Continued painting interior walls.  Put up long pink faux fur shelf in the altar & piled it w plastic flowers.  Hung gold tinsel curtains either side.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Cheese & pickle for dinner.  Phoned Avi.  Recorded poem for Paula.  No Seth.  Returned to backpackers 9.15pm.

October 18

Woke 7am.  Rain, sun, rain.  Coffee at DP1.  Council: rates & zoning & bins.  Resene: roller extension for ceiling.  Library: library card.  Mitre 10: hose fittings, expanding foam, wood rot treatment.  Hacked away at rot, made big holes.  Filled ceiling holes with expanding foam & made stalactites.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Heated soup in electric frying pan for dinner.  Pearl came by.  Began painting piano.  Returned to backpackers 9.45pm.

October 19

Woke 7am.  Coffee, blueberry smoothie.  Mitre 10: expanding foam, jigsaw, shelving.  Warehouse: duvet.  Continued painting piano & ceiling.  Continued stalactites.  Seth came by.  Graham came by.  I gave them a lift to the liquor store.  Jason came by.  Pearl came by & invited me to a party..  Cut away more rot w the jigsaw.  Starlings in roof getting louder.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Grilled cheese for dinner.  Put up shelves for tools & art supplies.  First sleepover at Gloria.  Shirley Jackson.

October 20

Woke 7am.  Lovely first sleep, moonlight filling the church windows.  Coffee, blueberry smoothie.  Hot & sunny.  Reporter Meg came by.  Builder Brad came by, saw to the bathroom shed, cut a hole in Gloria’s back wall for another door.  Showed me that under the stucco are beautiful rimu weatherboards.  I sanded & primed window sills on the north side.  Got bad sunburn.  Pearl came by.  Phoned Freya.  Banana & peanut butter for lunch.  Tuna salad for dinner. 

October 21

Woke 7am.  Coffee, blueberry smoothie.  Dreamed of standing on a beach w Prince Harry & Prince William, watching Amy drift out to sea.  Brad returned at 9am, put a door in the hole in the back.  I reputtied the north facing windows.  Lynda came by.  Drove to Hokitika in search of coffee plunger, no luck.  Nursery: 6 flax, 2 tikouka.  Mitre 10: putty.  Adam came by, removed dodgy socket.  I bogged some holes.  Sunburn v sore.  Chicken pie for lunch, tuna salad for dinner.  Then pub.  Graham & Seth came by after.  Graham gave me a bike,  Seth stayed for drinks & kisses & the night.

Gloria, before
Gloria, after

October 22

Woke 7am.  Coffee, toast.  Seth woke at 8am, cracked a beer & left.  Kerry, Celine & Paul came by, had tea & cake & went for a walk & collected pounamu.  Seth returned, drunk & covered in grease.  I had a nap.  Then did first load of laundry at laundromat.  Mitre 10: putty, clotheshorse.  Finished puttying north & front windows.  Asparagus for dinner.  Painted interior north window sills.  2 x dark pink to match door, 1 x teal as an experiment.  Bed 10.30pm.

October 23

Woke 8am.  Coffee, toast.  Sunny.  Five days since last shower.  Library.  Supermarket.  Vege fritter from foodtruck.  Listened to a folk band in the park.  2nd coats on window interiors, front & north.  Continued painting piano.  Played it.  Seth gone.  Avocado toast for dinner.  Set up old TV & VCR.  Phoned Em.

October 24

Woke 7am.  Coffee, blueberry smoothie.  Warm, light rain.  Returned to bed, reading.  Pearl came by w Kaius.   Sanded window sills.  Mitre 10: towel, bleach, shelves, doormat.  Pearl returned, said all my pounamu was serpentine.  Avocado toast for lunch.  Pearl came by again w treats for the party.  Played piano.  Stir Fry for dinner.  Pearl returned w yesterday’s paper – Gloria on the front page.  Old people partying loudly at Bowling Club next door.  Took half a zopiclone.


Anyway, I guess Gloria has become a phenomenon, something far bigger than me, far bigger than the original vision.  This sometimes happens when we make things.  She is frequently splashed across the various media, here & abroad.  & I am merely her spokesperson.  I keep her well stocked with pink paint.  I search for pounamu (still all serpentine so far).  I chat with the neighbours.  The sun goes down.  I take a zopiclone.  & this house shines brighter & brighter.

Sam, before
Sam, after

Sam Duckor-Jones is the author of two collections of poetry, both published by Te Herenga Waka University Press, People from the Pit Stand Up (2018) and Party Legend (2021). He lives in Gloria.

Leave a comment